Studying Maths – decisions on level 2

M208 text book for maths level 2
M208 – people of a certain age will look at these text books and think blockbusters…

At the weekend I signed up for my next maths modules with the Open University.  I’ve got three distinctions in the level 1 modules and, aside from my severe annoyance with being forced to do a level 1 module I’m not interested in as “punishment” for skipping the easy start module1,  I was desperate to do the next module.  However, I dragged my heels this time.

If you’ve been following my posts you’ll know that I’ve spent the past few months working for a start-up and this has taken a lot of my free time2 as we moved towards launch.  This was also the reason I barely revised for MS221, even though I got away with it.  So, despite being desperate to do more modules, I had to think carefully before making any commitment – would I have the time to devote properly to study as I wouldn’t be happy with anything less than a distinction…  Also, like many people studying with the OU, in addition to a full time job, I have a family and want to spend time with them.  Specifically, I have a 3 year old who seems to have infinite energy3 meaning I have no  “me” time.  Wake, nursery run, commute, work, commute, dinner, time with my daughter, sleep.  My poor husband barely sees me and the majority of our conversations revolve around how we can convince our girl that bedtime is actually when Cbeebies ends transmission…  Catching up with anything that’s been on TV is a guilty pleasure that involves setting an alarm for 5am4.  So why on earth would I commit to studying when there’s so little time for anything else?

Level 2 maths also means a mandatory double module – twice the assignments, tutorials and study.  With level 1, I ignored the books, turned up to the tutorials for 3 hours once every 5 weeks, took a further 3 hours to do the related assignment and then a few days revision before the exam.  This is far far below the recommended study time that is set by the OU.  When I got my MS221 results, both my husband and parents said that I needed to take it more seriously else this lax approach would trip me up sooner or later5 and they’re right – I can’t go into level 2 thinking it will be easy and I need to give it more time else I’ll end up disappointing myself6.

I’m now in my 5th week of commuting into London.  In the main, I generally get a seat.  Most of the time I read my kindle or catch up with work.   It occurred to me that I’m getting through 2-3 books a week and, while I love fiction, I could use that time for study if I was organised.  This would be easier if I was studying something that required reading texts, whereas maths requires a little bit more interaction, but it is possible.  I know I can be disciplined enough to do it, and this time I have to as there isn’t the time to catch up in the evenings or weekends.

Most of all, I’m motivated to do it – I want to progress and get this degree because I love maths.    This, and my 3D printer project, are the things I do for “me”, because I want to – not to support anyone else or for work or because I have to – and everyone needs those things.

There’s still time to sign up for an October start if you want to try something new – take a look at the Open University site.  I can’t recommend them enough.


  1.  Seriously, this probably needs a blog post of its own – when I started there was some flexibility in what could be studied to make up the last 30 points at level one, and my tutor advised me to take an extra level 3 module.  When I discovered this was no longer possible, and I couldn’t progress to level 2 without these extra 30 points I tried for academic credit transfer, but all the staff I spoke to, while trying their best, couldn’t give me any guarantee that I could get credit for my PhD as I’d already started the course and my PhD was too long ago.  *Sigh*
  2.  Too much of my free time and with nothing to feed my reward/recognition motivators, but such is the nature of these things.
  3. I’m sure that’s not unusual either 😉
  4.  Something I have to do every Thursday to catch up with Bake Off.
  5.  I paraphrase, if I recall correctly the comments were “if you’d put the effort in you could have got a higher percentage” and “you lucky bitch” – I’ll let you work out which was from whom 😉  but a distinction is a distinction, it was just closer to the cut off that I would have liked.
  6.  I’ve also found out through the module facebook group that the OU have prizes for the highest score in the exams per region.  My achievement hunting addiction now means I have to get one of these…

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Dr Janet is a Molecular Biochemistry graduate from Oxford University with a doctorate in Computational Neuroscience from Sussex. I’m currently studying for a third degree in Mathematics with Open University. During the day, and sometimes out of hours, I work as a Chief Science Officer. You can read all about that on my LinkedIn page.